Urban Arnold Stephenson

lincolnshire regimental badgeLieutenant, 1st Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment (previously Private 6892, 19th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (2nd Public Schools)), killed in action, 23rd March 1918, aged 21

Born at Althorpe in 1897, Urban was the youngest of Alderman James Stephenson’s twelve children and the only son of the marriage to his second wife Susannah Ruth (nee Wood).

Urban volunteered for service with the Royal Fusiliers in June 1915 and served as a Private in the 19th (Service) Battalion, also known as the 2nd Public Schools. The unit had been formed at Epsom on 11 September 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men’s Force and Urban went out to France with them on 14th November 1915.

In summer 1916 he applied for an officer’s commission and was ‘gazetted’ with the 3rd Lincolnshire Regiment on 4th August 1916. Following his training he returned to France as a Lieutenant with the Lincolnshire Regiment in October 1916.

When the German Spring Offensive, Operation Michael, against the Somme broke out on 21st March, the 1st Lincoln’s were directly in the fron line in trenches near Vaucellette Farm, north of Ephey. Under attack for most of the day they held their position until relieved by a South African Battalion that evening.

During they night they retired to camp at Heudicourt and then the next day 22nd March, with the battle going against the British provided cover support for the retreating troops at Gurlu Wood west of Aziecourt-le-Bas. Through the night of 22nd-23rd March the Battalion attempted to improve their defences in Gurlu Wood but by 8.30am the German advance seemed as if it would outflank them and they were ordered to retreat back to Midinettes Trench, between Aizecourt-le-Haut and Moislains.

However when they emerged into the open on the western side of the wood they were caught at short range by the German machine guns and sustaining heavy casualties. Reaching the reserve line near Aizecourt they held this until mid afternoon when again the heavy shell and machine-gun fire forced them to retreat again back to Haut Allaines. However this position proved too exposed to hold and the retreat continued across the Canal du Nord first to Bouchavesnes and then Maricourt from where the survivors were evacuated the following day.

One of 70 men lost that day it is not sure exactly where Urban Stephenson lost his life, but it was during the retreat somewhere between Gurlu Wood and the Canal du Nord.

Urban is buried in Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension.

Urban is commemorated on both Althorpe War Memorials.

Coincidently on the same day Urban died his eldest half-brother, 2nd Lieutenant William D Stephenson was wounded in the Middle-East. In total seven Stephenson brothers and two sisters served during the war.